Apostle Islands

We arrived at Bayfield Harbor for a sunset cruise across Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Bayfield harbor

The skies were flat with soft, diffused light, virtually eliminating all late afternoon shadows.

Island Queen

I had my doubts about a sunset, but at least the water was calm. We boarded the Archipelago, Apostle Island Cruises’ newest vessel–a 65-foot, 150-passenger catamaran,

Archipelago1

and soon got underway on our 2½ hour-cruise.

motoring aboard Archipelago

There are 22 Apostle Islands grouped within the archipelago,

map

and according to Captain Mike, we would be running by half of them on the way to Devils Island, the furthest outpost and the geological jewel of the Apostle Islands archipelago.

Just starting out, we passed Basswood Island, the site of Bass Island Brownstone Company Quarry, operational from 1868 to 1893. The bulk of the cut stone was shipped across the Great Lakes, destined for Chicago residences, but the stone stacked by the shoreline never made it off the island. It’s a reminder of a time when buildings seldom exceeded seven stories. 

Basswood Island brownstone

The quarry company went bankrupt after demand for brownstone was replaced by concrete and steel.

Continuing along, a pair of eagles nesting high in the pines was an unexpected thrill. Last year, 20 eagles were counted within park territory. This year the count has risen to 42.

eagles and nest (4)

Before leaving Basswood Island, Honeymoon Rock figured prominently off the northeast shore.

rockstack

One of the greatest concentrations of black bears in North America is found on Stockton Island. Sadly, we found only trees and a rocky shoal.

Stockton Island

When passing Manitou Island, we were lectured by Captain Mike about several of the fishing camps that originated in the late 1800’s.

Cabins and sheds are still standing at the southwest corner of the island.

sand island smokehouse

After cruising through the channel for a half-hour, we arrived at Devils Island, the northernmost point of land in Wisconsin, and notable for the sea caves which undercut the shoreline.

 

Devils Island

We idled twelve feet from the rock formations for a closer look at the honeycombing…

sandstone layers

mask

leg in the water

grotto

While the overcast skies precluded any possibility of brightening the scenery, the balanced light offered views into the caves that otherwise would have been defeated by sunlight and resultant higher contrast.

cave column

caves and lighthouse

caves on the coast

Captain Mike promised one last photo opportunity before returning the Archipelago to Bayfield Harbor. He was referring to Raspberry Island’s lighthouse, once known as the Showplace of the Apostle Islands.

Raspberry Island lighthouse

As we trolled along the stone wall, we were greeted by the lightkeeper.

lightkeeper (2)

The National Park Service completed renovations of the 1906 structure in 2006.

Raspberry Island lighthouse (2)

On the return trip, Captain Mike asked passengers if they knew the origin story of Apostle Islands’ name. A few volunteers tossed out some theories. One guest suggested that there was something religious about the naming. Another guest offered that the area was first mapped by the Jesuits, so that explains why they gave it a holy name.

I thought the insight was interesting but unreliable, since there were 12 Apostles, for 22 islands. Could it be that the Jesuits had been drinking too much Lake Superior moonshine and seeing double?

Nobody knows!

But photographing Devil’s Island sea caves was a fleeting, yet near-religious experience… with ironic overtones.

 

 

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